on this Good Friday

Gethsemane, by Mary Oliver

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.
Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move, maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.
Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.


(another favorite Holy Week poem here.)


I’m giving up “I can’t” for Lent.

It probably doesn’t sound like much, if you’re not blessed with a perfectionist, neurotic personality and an incredible amount of insecurities, like me. But the truth is, I find myself saying “oh, I can’t” a lot, when a more accurate phrase would be, “I don’t know how,” or “I’m not very good at this yet,” or “I’m afraid to fail so I just won’t try.” I like being in my comfort zone, which is a kind of small space, when I think about it–especially when I think about the kick-ass things I am capable of when I put my mind to it (like going for that PhD, even when it meant I had to move to Germany for it, or applying for the Tanner fellowship, even if that meant moving again, and starting over, again, by myself, again). In many ways, I am an incredibly strong woman, so why do I limit myself so often with that “I can’t?”

So I suppose I’m giving up that comfort zone up for Lent. This is not a yes experiment, and you will not see me sky diving or switching careers or anything. It’s attempt to spend forty days not limiting myself–or at least not out of fear. It’s an attempt to figure out what I really mean when I say “I can’t”: I won’t? I don’t want to? I don’t know how to? I’m scared to try?

Rachel Held Evans has forty ideas for Lent over at her blog, and she suggests the following questions to ask yourself, including

2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that issue over the next 40 days?

5. How do I want Lent 2014 to affect not only the next 40 days but also the next 40 years?

And when I think about it, well, getting rid of those self-imposed restrictions that limit how I see myself, and by extension, others around me, and even God, seems to fit the bill pretty well.

If you’re giving something up this year, tell me what in the comments. If you’re still looking for a practice, I’d recommend the post I linked to for some very accessible ideas!

good morning, good morning, good morning

A month or so ago, I met with one of the priests in my local church to discuss confirmation/reception into the Episcopal Church. I felt much better about my presumed heterodoxy after that meeting, and came away with a few book recommendations as well. She also mentioned the following poem to me. It’s lovely and especially fitting for a Monday morning in which I had to drag myself out of bed.

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Hello, sun.

this and that, the ephemeral edition

–Remember back when I got word I had been granted the Tanner fellowship, and I was so excited about the library privileges and private office that I said I didn’t care they weren’t offering me health benefits? Well, my sister E. pointed out the other day that I may have jinxed myself then and there, as I have never had as many health-related issues as this year, nor sent as many claims to my insurance. Oops.

–I am definitely not Babble’s target audience, as I saw a post on what to wear for Valentine’s Day, and I only thought, wait, Valentine’s Day has a dress code? Why do I not know that?

–I tried out two new coffee places last weekend. With other people. (That deserves it’s own sentence, grammatically incorrect as it is.) Look at me, being all social and stuff! Also, dad, if you ever feel like coming back to Salt Lake, I now know an abundance of places to go for coffee. (That should tempt him.)

–Sunday morning, in church, the priest offered a lovely homily on breaking down the walls that make for an us-vs-them mentality, and gave a shout out for economic and marriage equality in the process. I’m generally not very good at actually listening to the sermon, but the Episcopalian homilies are so nice and short even my attention span can handle it. (That’s saying a lot. The ‘hey look, a squirrel’ thing is very applicable to me.)

–The snow has melted here, and the weather is lovely and mild, and I’m using my bike again instead of relying solely on Trax. I’m knocking on wood here, as it’s only February and people have been warning me it can snow till unbelievably late in the year here, but it’s nice while it lasts.

–Tomorrow I’m indulging my inner nerd and going to see the Utah Symphony play at Abravanel Hall. Why? Because the concert is called The Magic of Harry Potter and there’s no way I’m going to miss that.

on nativity scenes

I’ve wanted a nativity scene for years. I’ve put off buying one, though, mostly because I’m never home for Christmas but usually at my mom’s or my dad’s for the three-day Christmas stretch (or, ahem, partnered with someone who does not see the merit in Christmas decorations). I saw these the other day and instantly fell in love.



both images via 22 Words

And then I saw this post over at Rachel Held Evan’s blog, talking about the difficulty of finding a “fair-trade, biblically-accurate, ethnically-realistic, reasonably-priced, child-safe” nativity scene. And while obviously RHE is spoofing this a little bit, it’s actually one of the reasons I liked the minimalistic sets so much–no dominant representation of what the Holy Family looked like, and when it comes to the colored blocks one, not even labels marking those as present. If only because, in our family, it would make perfect sense for a dinosaur to be there, too.

on being single in church

Some of you will know that I have a host of thoughts and feelings about being single, and especially being single in church. I came across this article, and found myself nodding at a lot of the points. Like these:

–Stop pretending you know what it’s like.

A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity. As a result, married people sometimes mistakenly believe that they know something about singleness when in fact they don’t. Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport – and if you haven’t played it, you haven’t mastered it.  The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women. If you got married before these ages, then it makes sense to acknowledge that your experience as a single adult is below average. In other words, you don’t know a lot about singleness. This calls for humility.

This one always really gets me. If you’re with your high school sweetheart or got married in college, you have no idea what it’s like to navigate adulthood alone. So stop giving me advice, well-meant or not. I don’t tell you how to parent your kids, you don’t tell me how to be single.

–pastors that only talk about being single in terms of abstinence.

the pastor (who is quite the scholar) gave a profound, rousing sermon on the beauty and holiness of marriage. Even as a single person, I was inspired by his sophisticated, lovely depiction of a Christ-centered marriage. It was that good!

At the end of the 40 minute sermon, the pastor looked up from his notes and began to ad lib: “I know that over 40% of you are single, so I should probably say something about singleness as well.”

My ears perked up. Since this pastor was such a scholarly guy and since he had just given an exceptionally thoughtful sermon on marriage, I just knew that his brief thoughts on singleness would be equally profound. I leaned forward.

“Here’s what I want to say to all you single people: Don’t have sex before you get married. Then when you get married, make up for lost time. [wink, wink]”

Once the laughter died down, the pastor gave a benediction and returned to the pew where his wife awaited him.

Having your whole being, your hopes and dreams and ambitions and talents and all the things you’re doing right now, reduced to whether or not you’re sexually active? No. Just no.

–marriage as the norm.

Marriage is the norm, the gold standard. If you don’t adhere to it, people ask questions. Case in point: I’m out-and-about in the Christian world a lot these days. As a result, I meet new people all of the time. The fact that we’ve just met doesn’t stop Christians from asking me why I’m not married. Out of the blue, and with a quizzical look, they’re like, “How come you’re not married?” It’s my most frequently asked question. Seriously.

When I first got to Salt Lake City, one of the leaders of the small group asked me if I was in SLC by myself. (In her defense, I think she was trying to be tactful.) When I said yes, the conversation stopped. Because once you know I’m not married or partnered, there’s obviously nothing left to ask me about myself.

Or, the other day at church, when the minister talked about the importance of connections in a Christian life, and only offered up the sacrament of marriage as an example. Sure, because those of us not married are floating around, unconnected to other people.

–I’ll add one of my own: singleness is often talked about as a state you should end as soon as possible. You know, as much as I’d like to find my special someone (why else am I going on all these dates?), I have a pretty great life. I get to travel, I love what I do for a living, the library here is amazing, and I’m not living in Germany any more. All awesome things I wouldn’t give up for the world. And I’m not willing to partner up with someone who can’t keep up with me, even if that means waiting for a while longer. In the meantime, I can buy myself that KitchenAid, thank you very much. (Well, I could, if I weren’t a poor grad student. But you know what I mean.)

(Another great post about being single in church can be found here. I’d add my thoughts about her article to this list but this is long enough as it is.)

I’ll be Bach

On Friday, I went to the Good Friday service at the Reinoldikirche, mostly because they have their own Bach choir. I figured good music would make up for the parts of the sermon I couldn’t understand, and it did. Then, after lunch (and a dismayed look outside at the snow that was beginning to fall), I did some chores before heading over to the planetarium in Bochum. They do a Musik Matinee once a month, in which they feature music and a spectacular star show. For Good Friday, they were doing (parts of) the Matthäus Passion. And while it couldn’t beat an actual live performance, it was still pretty great to listen to the music, lie back in my chair, and watch the stars move above my head.

At least, until someone across the aisle fell asleep and starting snoring. And then, when woken up, starting talking to his friend, just loud enough to disturb those sitting around him. Luckily they decided about halfway through that it wasn’t really their thing and left.

I know, so random, but I giggle when I see it anyway.

I know, so random, but I giggle when I see it anyway.

In other news, my mom and sister are coming to Dortmund for Easter weekend. And as if that wasn’t good enough, my mom has loaded up the car with everything we might need this weekend and then some, meaning I do not have to think about groceries at all.

Which is probably a good idea because my apartment is no where near the standards I like my mom to think I adhere to and I think I need to spend most of the time till they get here cleaning. Although I doubt I’m fooling her. I remember when I was little, my mom has this rule that we had to keep our rooms clean enough to walk from the bed to the door. So I literally made a path for her–and on more than one occasion, I may have cleared little islands of carpet so you could jump from one to the other and technically make it to the bed. In many ways, I haven’t changed…although I like to pretend I’m an actual functioning adult these days. Fake it till you make it, or something.